A happy vacation may be a mix of familiar places or routines, as well as new activities, says Caroline Adams Miller, happiness expert and author of Creating Your Best Life. The brain craves novelty, so in order to stimulate fresh well-being, you have to change up certain things while also maintaining some unchanging rituals that give children consistency and a feeling of safety. It's important to stray from the beaten path -- novelty matters.
If you believe in the importance of the family tree, then this is the vacation for you. Your kids may be surprised with the realization that they wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the generations of ancestors who preceded them. Actively researching your family's heritage takes work and patience, but the rewards are great. Do some online research about who you want to find (or learn more about) before setting out in person. Before you know it, you'll be scouting courthouses, homesteads, ghost towns and graveyards!
Are you a family of book lovers? Avid readers experience new places every time they open a book. Help your little bookworm bring these places to life. Visit locations he or she has read about in favorite books: the Little Women homestead in Concord, the Colonial Williamsburg stomping grounds of American Girl's Felicity or the Old Monroe County Courthouse in Alabama for a production of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Does your family get excited about horror movies, paranormal reality shows and Halloween? Why not thrill their socks off with a haunted family vacation! Actually experiencing a visit to a haunted hotel or inn is quite different than watching a movie or reading a book about it. There are dozens of places across the nation that claim to have ghosts or hauntings. Are you willing to skip the sandy shores of the beach for a visit with the unknown?
Looking for some culture shock? Take a trip to Amish country in Pennsylvania to find a "community of humility, modesty, obedience, equality and simplicity." The family-focused lifestyle of the Amish hasn't changed much over the past 300 years. Your kids will be stunned by the Amish's simple dress, lack of electricity and modern appliances, and horse-and-buggy transportation. For fun, children can "run around the farm" or join a quilting bee. Whatever will you do without your cell phones and computers?
What?! Go to Orlando without stopping at Disney World, Universal Studios or Sea World? You bet! Everglades National Park is the largest sub-tropical wilderness in the US and has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance. Your child can become a Junior Ranger and learn tons about alligators, crocodiles and other fascinating wildlife.
Take your child's hobby to the next level with a hobby vacation. Take your T-ball player to the Baseball Hall of Fame or your budding guitarist to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. If your child loves anything with wheels, hit the Indy 500 or a large tractor show. Have a kid who's crafty with knitting or crocheting? Check out a sheep farm to see how yarn is made. Horseback riders? Visit rodeos or horse races. Kids know what they love -- take them where they can enjoy their passion on a bigger scale.
Ever notice that kids often prefer the hotel amenities over the surrounding attractions? Many children are willing to skip Disney World altogether to swim in the hotel pool and play in the arcade. Save gas money and park tickets by booking kid-friendly accommodations so close to home that they won't even have time to ask, "Are we there yet?"
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